Another Aretha cover that isn’t exactly well known, but packs one hell of a punch. Positioned near the end of Side A of 1968’s Aretha Now, “Night Time Is The Right Time” is yet another example of Aretha transforming and elevating a hit into something all her own.
What separates Aretha’s version from the rest is that it relies so heavily on the piano. Sure, early versions like that of Roosevelt Sykes have the piano, but they don’t have the rhythm of later versions like Ray’s. Both Ray and Nappy’ Brown’s arrangements. Once again, Aretha’s brilliant piano playing is the focal point of her arrangement.
Aretha also does the opposite of her usual, and significantly scales back the background parts for much of the song, specifically the “night and day”, instead utilizing her brass section to fill in the blanks. Of course, being one of the only female artists to cover it (especially that early on in the song’s lineage), Aretha’s version augments the male-female dynamic made so famous by Ray Charles’ version.
Ray relied on the grit and tenacity of Margie Hendrix from his Raylettes to momentarily steal the show and elevate (other word) the moment. But nobody was stealing the show from Aretha. She was the show and the elevated moment. While Margie Hendrix’s “baby”’s have some serious growl and intensity, they plateau melodically. Aretha’s show-out has serious power, that demonstrates her range.
When Aretha unleashes her own “I gotta call you ‘baby!’” a minute and a half in, it’s game over. While The Sweet Inspirations reinforce her, “Night Time Is The Right Time” becomes not just a statement, but a climactic proclamation. Yet, in the midst of going off, Aretha yields her voice to bang out a fantastically bluesy piano solo, something that’s always welcomed for Aretha. As soon as she’s done tearing up her solo, she proclaims “baby won’t you please me!” From there, the free for all of wails and screams resumes as Aretha’s conquest of “Night Time Is The Right Time” concludes, victorious.
Listen to Aretha unleash voice and piano on “Night Time Is The Right Time”: